Women’s Equality Day: Naomi Barber’s Outlook on Women in the Optometric Industry

Dr. Naomi Barber, Director of Optometry at Specsavers Canada

Q: Why is it important to you to see women represented in the optometry field?

I think it’s important to see women represented in every field. For optometry, we’re in a position where our scope of practice is increasing and we’re able to harness clinical technology to impact on patient outcomes like never before. Whether in research, teaching, professional services or provision of patient care, there are so many opportunities for female optometrists to advance the profession in new and innovative ways.

Q: What was it like as a woman, getting into the optometry profession?

Women make up more than 50% of the optometry workforce in many countries. This is a growing trend and we’ve seen a complete turnaround from a male dominated industry only 20-30 years ago. As this continues, this adds a real richness to the way we think about optometrists as professionals, how we contribute to our communities, and how we integrate with other health professionals and is driving a positive cycle of equality in the profession.

Q: Did you have any female role models or mentors you could look to that got you interested in optometry?

It was my optometrist, Dr. Ed Howell who inspired and encouraged me to enter the field. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the support of incredibly visionary male mentors in the industry throughout my career. The thing they have in common is that they champion commitment, dedication, and hard work – irrespective of gender. It’s my wholehearted belief that we always achieve the most when we embrace what men and women offer.

Q: 10 years from now, what changes do you hope to see with women in the optometry field?

I’m excited to see the progress being made when it comes to life and work balance for optometrists. There is so much to be done to better protect and care for optometrists so they can give their best to patients and we’re becoming really innovative in the way we empower women as business owners and clinicians.  I think there is real opportunity for optometry to lead the way amongst health professions to advocate for, and implement, sustainable practices that allow women to accomplish great things without sacrificing their mental health and wellbeing.

Q: How do you strive to create opportunities for women in your work?

There is always work to be done. It’s important to be mindful of working preferences, even subtle things can lend themselves to inequality in the workplace and small changes can make a big difference. But probably the thing that I’ve observed the most is that women often intrinsically lack confidence. They have everything it takes to achieve great things but are less likely to put themselves forward. It matters that we take extra care to nurture confidence

Watch film